Kansas State University


Food Science Institute

Student Spotlight: Carla Schwan

By Morgan Wolfe



After living in Brazil for 22 years, Carla Schwan decided to step out of her comfort zone and step into the United States. Upon finishing two years of her undergraduate degree in Brazil, Carla knew she needed to aim high in order to fulfill the rest of her dreams. “I applied for a program called “Science Without Borders,” said Carla. “It was a government program that gave students the financial opportunity to further their education globally for a year. It was highly selective. The entire process took three months.”

When she received the news that she had been selected, Carla experienced a variety of emotions. “I was very excited to come to Kansas, but also so scared,” Carla noted. “I had only learned English for five months in Brazil. I wasn’t sure how I was going to communicate with people!”

She adjusted quickly though. “I learned most of my English here in the labs at K-State. After that, I used sticky notes for everything. I put one on the wall that said wall, I put one of the mirror that said mirror, I put one on the chair that said chair. Eventually, I got it.”

Carla completed her junior year at K-State in food science then returned to Brazil to finish the rest of her bachelor’s degree in food science and technology at the Federal University of Santa Maria. She had no idea she would return to Kansas until Dr. Randy Phebus called her one day. “ He asked if I wanted to come back for my master’s degree for the next two years,” Carla mentioned. “So of course, I did.”

Carla focused on antimicrobial interventions to minimize the risk of Escherichia coli in beef and did most of her master’s research in the Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI) and at the Food Safety and Defense Laboratory at K-State working under Dr. Phebu’s supervision. She has returned to K-State to continue working on her PhD in Food Science. She is currently researching Shiga toxin-producing E. coli as part of a 25 million dollar STEC CAP USDA project. Carla works under Dr. Phebus as he is a key investigator in the project. The rest of her PhD research will be under Dr. Jessie Vipham, Assistant Professor in animal science and industry at K-State. “Dr. Vipham has given me the opportunity to work with her in Ethiopia. One of the goals of this project is to develop a basic food safety training program that focuses on meat safety. Additionally, I’ll be collaborating in the development of a food safety master’s program in Ethiopia.”

Although Carla is very excited to study abroad yet again, she is equally thrilled to soak in another year back at K-State. “I love the environment here,” said Carla. “I’ve been to many universities in the United States and K-State is by far the most welcoming. There is an overwhelming sense of help and generosity here; it really helped me when I first got here and didn’t know English very well.”

We are very excited to welcome Carla back for the third time, and we look forward to all the brilliant things she will do this year in her research as well as next year while she works in Ethiopia.

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